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Minister of Education Dr. Henry Jeffrey has said that HIV/AIDS education will be introduced into the school curriculum through a $20M UNESCO project for enhancing the sector’s capacity to accomplish the ‘Education for All’ (EFA) goal of “Universal Literacy by 2015”.
The project resulted from the recognition by the Government of Guyana that the low level of literacy among in-school and out-of-school youth was not only a concern in itself in the context of Guyana’s EFA commitment; it was fuelling the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Managed by UNESCO, and financed by the Japanese Trust for Human Resource Development, the project will provide Guyana with approximately US$100,000 (G$20M) of grant resources for 2003 and 2004.
The UNESCO Office for the Caribbean is to collaborate with Guyana’s Ministry of Education in the execution of this project, and activities will commence in mid-2003, subsequent to the formal approval of the Government of Japan.
This announcement was made when Director General of UNESCO, Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, Dr. Jeffrey and other senior education officials met recently with journalists at the UNESCO Commission office, Georgetown.
UNESCO officials said that the current National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS envisages an enhanced role for the education sector within the national response. As a result, Guyana requested the UNESCO assistance, which was granted.
This assistance will enable the Ministry of Education to expeditiously pilot instructional materials in both schools and adult literacy centres, and also evaluate the results, the officials said.
Addressing journalists, Mr. Matsuura said that this response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic is necessary since there is no immediate sign of a vaccine to eliminate the disease, and therefore education holds the key.
The UNESCO head said he was happy with the progress being made in the Education and Health sectors in Guyana. He also alluded to the progress Guyana has made in the context of basic education following the world conference on Basic Education and Health.
Mr Matsuura noted that UNESCO has been given coordinator status by the World Bank to assist good performing countries in the area of basic education.
He said that seven countries have been earmarked for this special project and that Guyana was one of those countries.
Alluding to the funding, Minister Jeffrey said that it was indicative of the long and fruitful relations between Guyana and UNESCO. Jeffrey stated that it is important to have educational programmes on HIV/AIDS in schools, but added that there is a significant number of people outside the school system who are functionally illiterate.